Palo Alto Weekly

News - February 1, 2013

County DA: 'We made a mistake in this case'

Jeff Rosen says his office erred in dismissing case against Menlo Park cop

by Sandy Brundage

The 2011 case against veteran Menlo Park police officer Jeffrey Vasquez for soliciting prostitution should not have been dismissed, Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen has acknowledged.

"We made a mistake in this case," Rosen said on Friday, Jan. 25.

"While this case was not dismissed to protect the officer, I have spoken with the prosecutor who made that decision. He now realizes he made an error. While no one likes unfavorable media coverage, I appreciate the media coverage in this case because it brought the mistake to light and allowed me to educate and correct our staff moving forward."

The Almanac, the Weekly's sister paper, broke the story that Vasquez faced a misdemeanor criminal charge after Sunnyvale police caught him naked in a motel room with a woman reportedly hired through My Redbook, a website listing local escorts and their phone numbers. Both Vasquez and Natalia Ramirez admitted they were engaging in prostitution, according to court records, then pleaded not guilty.

The outcome of the case raised as many eyebrows as the circumstances of the offense. Prosecutors discovered the day of Ramirez's trial July 11, 2011 that the officer who interviewed her wasn't available to testify due to a family crisis. Ramirez had not waived her right to a speedy trial, leaving prosecutors only 10 days to decide whether enough evidence remained without that key testimony, according to Deputy District Attorney Rob Baker, who supervised the case. His team concluded they couldn't prove the case against her a decision that then led to dismissing the case against Vasquez as well.

Rosen agreed that the investigating officer's testimony was essential but challenged the decision to immediately drop the case.

"The case should not have been dismissed. Because police officers enforce the law, they should be held to a high standard," Rosen said, without going into specifics as to what options the prosecution had.

He implemented a policy change as a result: From now on, all cases involving law-enforcement officers as defendants will go to Assistant District Attorney Marc Buller for review.

Public criticism that the investigating officer was conveniently absent only for the Ramirez-Vasquez cases appears unfounded. While helping his wife through a life-threatening illness, the Sunnyvale officer received four subpoenas during July and August 2011 and testified in none of those cases, according to police department data: He was unavailable for two cases, the defendant pleaded guilty in the third, and the fourth case the prosecution of Ramirez was dismissed.

The officer returned to the stand four months later, in November 2011.

It's surprisingly difficult to learn how many police officers in Menlo Park, as well as throughout Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, have faced prosecution. The district attorney offices don't track that data, although Santa Clara County, at least, intends to start.

"We do not have the technical capability to answer this question comprehensively," Media Coordinator Sean Webby said. "The District Attorney has directed staff to study improving our data system so that we will be able to identify such cases more easily in the future."

San Mateo County, on the other hand, is not so inclined.

"We definitely do not keep statistics on the number of officers prosecuted," District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said. "We have prosecuted numerous officers over the last few years for both felonies and misdemeanors ranging from drunk driving to theft to felony assault. But we do not keep a list of those prosecutions."

As in other jurisdictions, San Mateo County maintains a confidential "Brady list" of police officers charged or convicted of an offense and discloses that information to the defense in certain cases.

The Brady list provides scant data to the public. The U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the 1963 Brady v. Maryland case states that prosecutors must disclose exculpatory evidence to the defense, including misconduct by a police officer who might be called as a witness in a case if that misconduct could discredit or impeach the officer's testimony.

Wagstaffe said, "There are under 10 officers presently employed and working in this county on the Brady list." He noted that, during his 36 years at the district attorney's office, "We have had dozens of officers who engaged in conduct we deemed Brady and disclosable."

Vasquez returned to his job with the Menlo Park Police Department after an arbitrator overturned the city's decision to fire him.

When asked how many current police officers have criminal records, and how many officers were fired during the past 10 years, the city refused to answer, saying that no such records exist.

"This request for statistics would require the City to physically review individual records/personnel files and create documents that do not exist. The records themselves are confidential personnel information, which we are required to maintain as such," said Gina Donnelly, human resources director for Menlo Park, in an email on Jan 24.

Legal counsel for the California Newspaper Publishers Association (CNPA) said it's hard to believe no document, such as an annual report to city management on employee disciplinary actions, exists.

CNPA attorney Jim Ewert said: "If they claim that they don't track this, then the issue becomes why not? The city has tremendous exposure to liability for the acts of their employees who carry guns, and they don't keep track?"

Almanac Staff Writer Sandy Brundage can be emailed at sbrundage@almanacnews.com.

Comments

Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jan 29, 2013 at 11:14 am

> The city refused to answer, saying that no such record exists.

> "This request for statistics would require the City to
> physically review individual records/personnel files
> and create documents that do not exist

Given the outlandish salaries that City Officials (Department Heads and above), it makes one wonder what these people are doing for these salaries.

It's hard to believe that all Menlo Park's employee records are not on a computer. Were that the case, then it would take little more than the following "question" for the computer to provide an answer to the Almanac's question about fired police officers:

"List all employees where termination-code=fired and dept-code=police"

(Note, the query above would need to be translated into the specifics for the Menlo Park computer system.)

The idea that Menlo Park claims to not have the capability to provide this information is quite eye-opening. It also demonstrates a growing problem with the California Public Records Act, which never envisioned all public records being on-line and fully indexed. Menlo Park should not be able to hide behind some arcane laws that are no longer relevant.

Modern information management systems allow the user to ask questions of the City's records that might not have been asked in the past. Claiming that it never kept track of terminated police officers, or employees (for that matter) should make people living in Menlo Park pretty angry—and their Council should be asked some very hard questions.

As for DA Rosen—

> Rosen agreed that the investigating officer's testimony was
> essential, but challenged the decision to immediately drop
> the case.

What does this mean? Is he the "boss", or not?

The article says that he has added a layer of review for cases involving law enforcement officers. Ok, but we are left wondering why this sort of policy has not in place in the past.

As for the DAs in San Mateo and Santa Clara County not being able to provide information about law enforcement officers who have been prosecuted, the same general comments apply to them that apply to Menlo Park. These guys are getting paid big bucks. They are supposed to be managers, not just the "top dog" on the County's totem pole of political power. There is no reason that these guys should not have a computer system in place that allows them to know the status of any/all cases, including past cases involving law enforcement officers.

These DAs don't seem to report to anyone by the voters. If we don't confront them more effectively in future elections, its hard to believe much will change in the next fifty years.


Posted by Hulkamania, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 29, 2013 at 1:57 pm

Somewhere in the Menlo Park Police Department building, there is a desk with book in one of the drawers. That book has all the information about current and former officer's criminal charges and prosecutions.

Find the book and all will be answered.


Posted by Ladeeda, a resident of Menlo Park
on Jan 29, 2013 at 2:43 pm

I think we all agree with the statement that the naked cop should not have been let go. He committed a crime while on duty.


Posted by Let Him Get Off, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 29, 2013 at 8:25 pm

The cop has provided safety for the public and should be respected for that. He has put his life on the line for strangers. None of you want to be police officers so you should just keep your passive-aggressive typing off this thread. Next time you need law enforcement to help you, remember how you have crucified this cop and don't make that 911 call for help.


Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 30, 2013 at 5:31 am

> "We made a mistake in this case," said Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen. "We should not have dismissed the soliciting prostitution charge against the police officer."

Then do not compound that mistake by allowing the people who made it to remain in their offices as you did the criminal police officer .... fire them or demand that they resign.

There is no answerability at all these days, all it takes is someone willing to stare down the public or say we made a mistake, or we're sorry.

This is the new way things are done, there are levels that stretch things out over time until people forget about them or realize nothing is going to get done.

Fire the cop, fire the people who kept the cop on.

Maybe this is all in sympathy with the SFPD guy who were kept on as well after hitting his wife ... this is an outrage.


Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 30, 2013 at 5:33 am

> Let Him Get Off

The point you seem to blind to see is that he was not risking his life or helping anyone when he is screwing a prostitute while on duty. I hope you are not a cop, or a city official.


Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 30, 2013 at 9:34 am

Prosecutor: It was a mistake to drop the charges but we did it anyway.


Posted by Mike, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 30, 2013 at 9:34 am

-Anon.
You are absolutely right! What would have happened if a 911 call came in the area where this cop was suppose to be?? - Let Him Get Off, well, he did but he got caught. FYI, we, taxpayers PAY for police protection so while on duty, we, taxpayers should not pay for his time for his personal activities of any kind! Keep that in mind next time cops, city officials or any other public figure uses our money for their own interests. I know that's a long shot in moral compass these days.


Posted by Mr.Recycle, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 30, 2013 at 10:09 am

At least he was investing back into the local economy.


Posted by Citizen, a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Jan 30, 2013 at 10:24 am

Wow! A police officer who does not follow the laws, and who violates them even while on the clock and there are people who want him on the payroll? I don't. Whether you agree with the laws or not, a police officer is supposed to enforce them. In order to do that, he or she has to agree to them regardless of his or her personal preferences. If he allows himself this enormous gray area during his work day, imagine how much latitude he allows himself when making an arrest, gathering evidence, testifying against you or your relative? He is not a trustworthy person. I want him nowhere near me with a gun or with the authority to randomly enforce the laws he does not respect.


Posted by Blatt, a resident of another community
on Jan 30, 2013 at 10:25 am

Duh...............


Posted by Let Him Get Off, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 30, 2013 at 11:30 am

And you all are saints! One-quarter of the days of people are spent on Facebook, Twittering, or personal emails/personal phone calls (making appointments), going to appointments, having an extended lunch hour, leaving early the day before a holiday, POSTING ON TOWN FORUMS on company time! Don't give me this angelic talk about how you always signal when making a turn, drive the speed limit at all times, and never run a yellow light. Half Moon Bay doesn't even have a police force because they can't afford it. You all are hypocrites and should look in the mirror and ask what you have done for society and your fellow citizens today. You aren't donating your time in the Peace Corp or volunteering to crack down on drugs and gangs. You aren't serving on the front lines of our military to keep us safe. You are just cowardly complaining behind your computer alias. Get a life!


Posted by PaulBlart, a resident of Greater Miranda
on Jan 30, 2013 at 11:51 am

Funny how they say letting him off was a mistake. I guess it's only a mistake now that the public is in the know. This incident and as well as others are routinely swept under the rug . As long as joe public does not know they go unnoticed.

The DA is just as guilty if not more for this cover up


Posted by Paul Blart, a resident of Greater Miranda
on Jan 30, 2013 at 11:54 am

Sound Like ''Let Him Get Off''
Is the dirty cop himself posting:)


Posted by Let Him Get Off, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 30, 2013 at 11:58 am

Haha, "Paul Blart", Mall Cop! No, I am a female, actually. I just think people ought to mind their own business because we can't change the world by complaining and pointing fingers. People on this forum ought to do more "not my problem, doesn't directly affect me" thinking.


Posted by KP, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jan 30, 2013 at 12:46 pm

> Let Him Get Off - Seriously!?! What are you thinking? I'm a cop and I can do whatever illegal activity I want to, because I'm above the law?!! Johns and hoes are arrested for a reason, fool!

> Anon - I concur 100%

> Paul Blart - Hahaha!!!
> Let Him Get Off - You don't have any business when you're breaking the law!! Gert real!


Posted by Be Serious, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 30, 2013 at 5:19 pm

It sounds like we are getting pretty moralistic here. A police officer actually has sexual urges? Unbelievable! These laws are from our puritanical past, and ought to be updated. Meanwhile, let's be real. The police and District Attorney have better things to do than to prosecute every "crime" that harms nobody, while there are people committing assault, battery, rape, murder, and other acts of major destructiveness.


Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 30, 2013 at 6:25 pm


1/If the MPPD officer visited or arranged to visit the prostitute while he was on duty-then he should be fired ASAP with no pension

2/ If the MPPD officer used any MPPD equipment-phone-computer etc to set up his solicitation of the prostitute-at any time- then he should be prosecuted under criminal law.

We may argue about the legalization of prostitution-currently it is against the law in California

MPPD officers swear under oath to enforce the current law

3/ He broke his solemn pledge-a 3rd reason to fire him

This man has no place in law enforcement in California-not make it upon as and when he chooses

- and he is a disgrace to his badge and his fellow officers

If the union wants to fight his firing then the union will face massive public condemnation and censure by the taxpayers of California

This MPPD officers needs to be fired-ASAP


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jan 30, 2013 at 7:52 pm

^^^Sharon has spoken!^^^
Of course, she knows nothing about the personnel laws & police union processes. She knows nothing about this officer & his record.

This is more rotten egg on the face of PA resident Rosen, whom so many have previously adored & flattered.

I really would love to hear if anything's being done about the City Manager who was blathering in public, in a bar, in front of a reporter, about the incident. Oooops!!


Posted by Hide the Weeny, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jan 30, 2013 at 8:17 pm

I smell a cover up. I wonder how many Menlo Park cops have been seeing prostitutes during business hours? They tried to bury the situation for fear of exposing what is really going on in the Menlo Park police deparment. Keep up the good work, boys!


Posted by Hide the Weeny, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jan 30, 2013 at 8:17 pm

I smell a cover up. I wonder how many Menlo Park cops have been seeing prostitutes during business hours? They tried to bury the situation for fear of exposing what is really going on in the Menlo Park police deparment. Keep up the good work, boys!


Posted by Hello?, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jan 31, 2013 at 7:23 am

Hello? do not pretend that you made a mistake. Everyone knows that police and their employers protect each others, and that is why many times victims do not complain because nothing is going to be done. Some cops are dirty and out of compliance. Sadly, but true many times the law is applied only to regular citizens.


Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 31, 2013 at 2:46 pm

1, 2, 3 - I Agree With Sharon.

1. If the MPPD officer visited or arranged to visit the prostitute while he was on duty-then he should be fired ASAP with no pension.

2. If the MPPD officer used any MPPD equipment-phone-computer etc to set up his solicitation of the prostitute-at any time- then he should be prosecuted under criminal law.

3. MPPD officers swear under oath to enforce the current lawHe broke his solemn pledge-a 3rd reason to fire him

Bottom line, why is Menlo Park employ-ING, criminals with incompetent moral sense and a definite affinity for the criminal to be police officers in their community.

The other thing to look at is if this has been business as usual for years or decades, how can the whole government-business structure that all of our lives and prosperity depends on not be totally rotten to the core?

Did this guy not get fired because he knows the dirt on all the other thugs that run our lives? Where does it end and how do we find out ... or better, how do we put in a place a system that checks and can tell us for sure?

The very existence of such a problem seems to indicate to me that corruption is the rule, not the exception.


Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 31, 2013 at 2:52 pm

1, 2, 3 - I Agree With Sharon.

1. If the MPPD officer visited or arranged to visit the prostitute while he was on duty-then he should be fired ASAP with no pension.

2. If the MPPD officer used any MPPD equipment-phone-computer etc to set up his solicitation of the prostitute-at any time- then he should be prosecuted under criminal law.

3. MPPD officers swear under oath to enforce the current lawHe broke his solemn pledge-a 3rd reason to fire him

Bottom line, why is Menlo Park employ-ING, criminals with incompetent moral sense and a definite affinity for the criminal to be police officers in their community.

The other thing to look at is if this has been business as usual for years or decades, how can the whole government-business structure that all of our lives and prosperity depends on not be totally rotten to the core?

Did this guy not get fired because he knows the dirt on all the other thugs that run our lives? Where does it end and how do we find out ... or better, how do we put in a place a system that checks and can tell us for sure?

The very existence of such a problem seems to indicate to me that corruption is the rule, not the exception.


Oh, and by the way "Let Him Get Off" ...

> And you all are saints!

I should not and do not have to be a saint to want to have my tax money going to pay for honest cops, and have it be honest cops that enforce the law in my community or neighboring communities. Even if I was a criminal, I would still want honest cops. What are you thinking.


Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 31, 2013 at 2:53 pm

Ooops, sorry, how'd that happen? Can the editor delete the first of my last posts please?


Posted by Huh?, a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 31, 2013 at 6:06 pm

@Anon:You don't have to be a saint but you want our policemen to be saints? A bit hypocritical. Our policemen are not corrupt. Look to Mexico for corrupt police and this case is nothing at all.


Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 31, 2013 at 6:32 pm


The facts are that a lot of prostitution in California is run by organized crime syndicates

Every PD knows that

The MPPD member knew that and opened himself to blackmail and corruption

He should be fired ASAP-no question

If MPPD members want to hire prostitutes then they should travel to the parts of Nevada where prostitution is legal.

They should be fired if they do it here as they are potentially associating with organized crime figures.
There is no excuse for this.

If the voters want prostitution legal fine-that will drive out the gangs

At this time it is illegal


Posted by Be Serious!, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 1, 2013 at 6:15 pm

Listen, all you fanatic puritans! Do you want cops who can do their jobs, who know how to deal with the really dangerous people who threaten us all, who are willing to put their lives on the line?

Or do you want to fire good cops because they're not complete saints like yourselves? I'm shocked, shocked, that gambling is going on in this establishment! Let's root out every police officer who isn't as pure as the driven, and watch how crime DOESN'T go down!


Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 1, 2013 at 6:56 pm



In fact being a police officer is not dangerous

It is way much less dangerous than

1/ Fisherman

2/ Miner

3/ Forester

4/ Tree Trimmer

Etc-etc

In fact -according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics - PDs come 17thin the list of life threatening occupations

The PD unions inflate and lie about the risks because they want more money.

Most PD jobs in Palo Alto/MP can be performed by security guards at 1/4 the cost and no loss in protection for tax payers.

Lets get it done!

The PA/MP Police work for the taxpayer

1/ The incompetents should be fired

2/ Each PD member should have to account for the need for his/salary in economic terms and there must be a review of how they spend their time hour by hour
3/ Tax payers and independent auditors like PwC must oversee PD budgets and cost/benefit ratios.

This sleazy MPDP illegal conduct which was covered up must lead to dramatic and fundamental reform and oversight of -what appears to be-a corrupt PD system

Enough is enough

-We tax payers pay the PA/MP PD wages -We demand radical change in the oversight of ethics, budgets, discipline and punishment of PA/MP PD members


Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 3, 2013 at 3:29 am

> Posted by Huh?, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood
> @Anon:You don't have to be a saint but you want our policemen to be saints?


That comment is so far off reality that had Palo Alto Online an ignore button for "Huh?" I'd use it because I don't think anyone who says what he just said will ever have anything to say that I'd need to hear. I'd also not want to hire anyone who defends someone who uses a prostitute on working hours. In fact I'd suspect someone who'd say something like that is a criminal themselves ... but hey, just go not Menlo Park and you'll fit right in "Huh?"!


Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 3, 2013 at 3:32 am

Oh, and Be Serious!, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood .... BE SERIOUS, a police officer visiting a prostitute on working hours is not some sign of competence as you seem to think.


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